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Shoreham air crash trial: ‘Pilot error’ blamed

Andy Hill arriving at court Image copyright PA
Image caption Andy Hill is accused of killing 11 men

Eleven men killed when a plane crashed during the Shoreham Airshow died “purely because of pilot error”, a court has heard.

Jurors were told Andy Hill’s Hawker Hunter jet “disintegrated” upon impact, creating a “massive fireball”, when it hit the ground in August 2015.

The aircraft was in “excellent working order”, the Old Bailey heard, “serious negligence” was to blame for the crash.

Mr Hill, 54, denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, told jurors the experienced pilot, from Sandon, Hertfordshire, had been performing a manoeuvre known as a “bent loop” before his aircraft hit the A27 in West Sussex.

“He did not have the height to pull the aircraft out of its dive, back to level flight at a safe height and, as a result he crashed into the ground,” he said.

It was Mr Hill’s “serious negligence that led directly to the loss of the those eleven lives”, Mr Kark said.

‘Miraculously escaped’

The jury was told Mr Hill had served in the RAF between 1985 and 1994 before becoming a commercial pilot, and was an British Airways captain at the time of the crash.

Mr Hill “miraculously escaped because his cockpit separated from the rest of the aircraft ending in a ditch”, Mr Hill said.

“His seat was thrown out of the cockpit and he was left lying on the ground.

“He was saved by the bravery of firefighters, paramedics and a doctor who managed to get to him despite the fires that were still burning all around.”

The trial is expected to last up to seven weeks.

Image copyright BBC/Sussex Police/Facebook
Image caption (Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, Graham Mallinson

The men who died

  • Matt Jones, a 24-year-old personal trainer
  • Matthew Grimstone, 23, a Worthing United footballer who worked as a groundsman at Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Jacob Schilt, also 23 and also a Worthing United player, was travelling to a match with Mr Grimstone
  • Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton, was a chauffeur on his way to pick up a bride on her wedding day
  • Friends Richard Smith, 26, and Dylan Archer, 42, who were going for a bike ride on the South Downs
  • Mark Reeves, 53, had ridden his motorcycle to the perimeter of Shoreham Airport to take photos of the planes
  • Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove was an aircraft enthusiast and had learnt to fly at Shoreham airfield
  • Mark Trussler, 54, is thought to have been riding his motorcycle on the A27
  • Daniele Polito was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones
  • Graham Mallinson, 72, from Newick, was a photographer and retired engineer
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